Separation of Powers

I. Separation of powers – The Madisonian Model

II. Thwarting the Tyranny of the Majority

The framers of the Constitution believed that human nature was self-interested and that economic inequality was the principal source of political conflict. Many of them felt that the non-wealthy majority would tyrannize the wealthy minority if given political power. To prevent the possibility of a “tyranny of the majority”, James Madison proposed the following:
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Place as much of the government as possible beyond direct control of the majority Separate the powers of different intuitions Construct a system of checks and balances

III. Limiting Majority Control
1.

Madison believed that to thwart tyranny of the majority, it was essential to keep most of the government beyond their control.

The House of Representatives was placed within direct control of the votes of the majority State legislatures were to elect senators Special electors were to select the president

III. Limiting Majority Control
1.

Government officials would be selected by a small minority, not by the people themselves.
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The president was to nominate judges The majority could not enact policies without the agreement of the Senate and the president The Constitution gave judges lifetime tenure and senators terms of six years, with only one-third elected every two years. Members of the House of Representatives were to be elected every two years.

IV. Separating Powers
1.

The Madisonian scheme provided for a separation of powers. The three branches of government included:
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The Executive branch The Legislative branch The Judicial branch

2.

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Each branch would be relatively independent, preventing any one branch form controlling the others. The Constitution does not divide power absolutely; rather, it shares it among the three institutions.

V. Creating Checks and Balances
1.

Because powers were not completely separate, each branch required the consent of the others for many of its actions. This created a system of checks an balances that reflected Madison’s goal of setting power against power to constrain governmental actions.

The Executive branch:

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The president can veto congressional legislation The president nominates judges

The Legislative Branch:

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Congress approves presidential nominations and controls the budget. It can pass over the president’s veto and can impeach the president and remove him from office The Senate confirms the president’s nominations Congress can impeach judges and remove them from office The Court can declare presidential acts unconstitutional The Court can declare laws unconstitutional.

The Judicial Branch:
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2.

Madison reasoned that if a faction seized on institution, it could not damage the whole system.

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